An Island of New Discoveries

Disney's Folly satellites captured this image of Discovery Island as it is today.

Disney's Folly once notoriously mused that Disney was going to bring a Lost-themed attraction to the former Discovery Island location. The reason why this faux rumor gained any speed is how good the idea is to bring an intriguing property to that specific location (and I do not take any ownership on the general Lost theming idea as many have suggested this). With the show off the air now, and having polarized many of its remaining fans towards the end, I doubt that Disney would ever come close to developing the island based on a syndication-unfriendly niche show. But that doesn't mean there aren't a multitude of valid, profitable ideas out there to take over both Discovery Island and its land-locked neighbor River Country. Today, I have some more ideas and this time, I’ll state up front that there is no truth to these suggestions!

Pirates of the Caribbean Island

To the consternation of some Disney fans, Pirates of the Caribbean theming has invaded areas other than the actual attraction of the same name. However, there is no denying the reality and logistics of Disney championing their own synergistic franchise, which also happens to cover a very popular genre (pirate lore). The popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has certainly not dwindled and looks to be rejuvenated with next year's On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment of the movie series. That said, why not start shifting many of these concepts away from the Magic Kingdom and into a new, separate land?

The island and sections of the corresponding main land (to the south and southwest of the island) could be themed after Tortuga, the notorious pirate island that lies out of the Royal Navy's jurisdiction in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. This movie setting is largely inspired by many of the scenes in the Pirates ride. Though this raises the issue of having a new attraction that largely plunders its own inspiration, enough could be done to differentiate the two. Much of Tortuga could emulate what Universal Studios is doing with Hogsmeade Village at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Pirate-themed shopping experiences, entertainment and eateries could line Tortuga. The Pirates League could relocate here as well. Also, imagine the street performers in Tortuga! Additionally, Disney could port a replica of the Black Pearl at the island as part of an attraction, walk through or as part of a show. The former River Country could even host that long-rumored Pirates-themed water park.

Discovery Island was previously known as Treasure Island, which had the type of pirate theme that could return to the island.

Marvel Island

The issue of incorporating Marvel characters into Disney parks is precarious on two levels. For one, there are apparently some rights issues with having those characters appear while also taking up shop over at rival Universal Studios. Secondly, it really doesn't make much sense to have Wolverine share the stage with Minnie Mouse. Disney CEO Bob Iger recently stated that Marvel characters do have a future in Disney parks. I don't want to ignore their presence at Universal, but let's take into consideration the probability of Marvel having a presence at Disney World.

Why not send them to the island? This technically puts them in the theme parks, even though the experience is more akin to the water parks. Since Universal actually calls their Marvel section Marvel Super Hero Island, Disney would have to be careful not to be repetitive. They could create a storyline for the entire island experience while also creating separate rides, based on the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers and Spider-Man. Dark rides or motion simulator rides could keep the attraction sizes smaller than a roller coaster. Separating the characters from the theme parks proper would give the experience more excitement. The Hulk loses all believability if he's featured in a parade down Main Street, U.S.A. But if he is running amok amongst his universe's super-powered brethren, than the concept makes sense. And it could be a great place for Dad to take his sons while Mom and the girls hang out in the new Fantasyland visiting all the princesses!

Discovery Island (upper middle) and River Country (southeast of the island) take up a large amount of space inc omparison to the Contemporary Resort (upper left) and part of Fort Wilderness (lower right).

Syndrome's Island

The Incredibles remains one of Pixar's most enduring films and one with everlasting appeal (especially if Brad Bird ever gets around to helming a sequel). It also happens to include a large sequence that takes place on Syndrome's secret island lair. It's the stuff out of old James Bond films, fancied up for the modern generation. And a perfect fit for the old Discovery Island space. The Omnidroid, the island's deadly security system, and Syndrome himself could all work as antagonists in a vast island experience. The film, similar to Harry Potter films, is quite effective at appealing to both the younger, family-oriented audience as well as savvy, mature audiences. Yet despite being one of Pixar’s most universally appealing properties, it remains one of its most poorly represented at the theme parks. If Disney can’t find a smart way to bring the characters to, say, Disney’s Hollywood Studios via a dark ride or rollercoaster, then they shouldn’t overlook the opportunity for an, ahem, incredible island experience.

[Insert New Concept Here] Island

Not everything in Walt Disney World has to be synergized with a film or television property. Disney's best and most groundbreaking attractions were original concepts, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and all of Epcot, to name only a few. Even as recently as Expedition Everest and Soarin', the Imagineers have been able to create their own sandbox instead of playing in franchise-established ones. Make no mistake, some of those synergistic opportunities are smart moves, especially when utilizing characters and locations from beloved Disney movies, such as what the Fantasyland expansion is doing with franchises like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

But Disney should take those restraints off the Imagineers and let them come up with something new, in concept, in execution and in technology. And give them an entire island to get it done! It may be difficult to pitch a concept that lies outside of the theme parks, but there aren't any concrete rules for running a theme park, especially when you're Disney. Pleasure Island and the water parks have proven that there can be a way to make ancillary experiences an essential part of the park hopping experience. If the concept is right, the guests are smart enough to find their way to the new experience.

Stitch Island

Just kidding.

What would you like to see on the old Discovery Island?


TokyoMagic! said...

Just found your blog because you had commented on mine! These are all fantastic ideas (yeah, except for the Stitch one!) I would love to see any one of them happen at WDW....even the "Lost" idea!

KD Younger said...

Problem with blending pirates into Discovery/River Country. You are dealing with Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge area - themed extensively as a general overall complex with a slow transition of trails and water front between the two. Implementing an iconic Pirate theme unit in the middle of that completely distracts from the overall story of the area and would result in a thematic imposition similar to the Swan and Dolphin looming as Godzilla-esque giants over World Showcase at EPCOT...

Scott said...

Neverland? The Peter and the Starcatchers books give some cool background on how Peter and the Lost Boys get to the island and how Peter learns to fly. Perhaps theme the island more to the book than to the Disney animated feature...

A mini-Animal Kingdom, private tours only, through a zoo of sorts?